Category Archives: disappointment

Take Wing!

Bird on nest about the take flight

We all ride the worldly winds of life, but are we flailing, falling or flapping our wings more than we need to? Or do we think we can avoid the winds by cowering in our nest? We can’t. The Buddha’s Eight Worldly Winds (Gain/Loss, Pleasure/Pain, Praise/Blame, and Fame/Disgrace) are a metaphor for life itself. As long as we are alive we will be in relationship with them in one way or another.

In this week’s class, a student brought in a book that contained a partial quote by Pema Chodron: “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land.”*

My student was both intrigued by the idea, but disheartened by the ‘no-man’s-land’,  the image of desolate arid emptiness between warring factions. I suggested that it might be the skillful ‘I don’t know’ mind or the First Noble Truth that life is suffering. But as a writer I was bothered by the mixed metaphor of a nest and a no-man’s-land as they seem to have no relationship. So I suggested that if we are always being thrown out of the nest, perhaps it’s because we are meant to fly. Our practice of meditation and our compassionate self-observations help us to learn how to spread our wings and ride the currents of the Eight Worldly Winds that blow through all of our lives. Through our intentions, words and actions we contribute to the creation of causes and conditions, but many causes and conditions are beyond our control. There’s no use making enemies of the Eight Worldly Winds. It’s more skillful to notice our tendencies to chase after some and run from the others, making our happiness dependent on which way the wind is blowing. Seeing that pattern we can choose instead to learn how to ride the currents.

I am thinking about this lately because for the past month I’ve been enjoying riding a current as buoyant and pleasurable as a fresh summer day. I feel a sense of contentment about where I am in my life right now, both professionally and personally, with a sense of purpose but no pressure or urgency. I enjoy doing what I have to offer the world and many people seem to appreciate my offerings. What could be better than to feel that what comes naturally in your life, is also of some benefit to others, whether to one person or to followers around the world?

Then something happened that sent me soaring beyond that pleasurable current, taking my general sense of well being and inflating it with surprise and elation. I was suddenly a bit breathless in the thin air of the stratosphere of amazing possibilities, hanging onto a balloon of hope.

At one point the current dipped. I assumed I was in a tailspin and was ready to crash and burn, relinquishing all hope. Imagining my little balloon lying on the ground, burst and ragged, I quickly turned away, embarrassed, and directed my thoughts elsewhere. But the person who, out of the blue, had offered me a hand-up, did not see balloons, inflation or deflation. He saw the facts. 

I was astounded to see, having read the same email response sent to both him and me, that while I just saw ‘NO’, he saw the offered name and email of the person to reach out to next. Where I saw rejection, he saw opportunity! (Is this a guy thing? Women in my family were taught to ask ‘Who am I to put myself forward in any way?”) Suddenly I understood how he had built a career not just out of talent, experience and an extensive knowledge-base, but out of the ability to see clearly and simply forge ahead. While I had built a tidy safe nest that I was afraid to leave.

This experience was a gift to me. It revealed a blindspot in my navigation in the world. Just like all of us, I am being repeatedly ‘thrown out of the nest’ and am always in a state of learning to fly in the confusing mashup of the worldly winds. And then along comes this other bird who seems to know how to navigate a current that I have always found particularly problematic. And just by flying the current in a natural way, he showed me how it’s done.

Does the metaphor of being ‘thrown out of the nest’ feel familiar to you?
Where in your life are you experiencing that?
What challenge is life giving you that you are either bravely learning to navigate its challenging currents or fearfully clinging to the nest as if you weren’t given wings to fly?

If so, how about this: Don’t cling! Take wing! And if you’re not sure how to fly, observe how others do it. We’re all birds of a feather in this life. Let’s fly together in a joyful murmuration!

Photo of bird on nest by Thomas Pedrazzoli.

*Full Pema Chodron quote: “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

After the election

oceanI am sitting here at the edge of the ocean trying to be present with all that is arising like waves within me, not trying to placate, not trying to talk myself out of any feeling that comes up within me, not trying to do anything except create room for it all and the compassion to hold it buoyant as the ocean.

The ocean’s waves are so large right now, as if tailor made to hold the heights and depths of what I am feeling.

The ocean is so vast. It teaches me how to be vast.

The ocean meets the sky as a friend, reflecting it without changing its own nature, in a gentle exchange. Can I find a way to be with the atmosphere around me with compassion while still staying fully seated in my being?

The ocean is a healer. So are the prairies, so are the mountains, so are the forests and the meadows, the lakes, the rivers and streams, the rolling hills and the desert sands. And those who dwell within them, the fish, the birds, the mice, the deer, all of us living as best we can.

 

Home now, I sit looking out at the mountain, remembering my walk by the ocean, up on a bluff and down on the dune and onto the wet sand where the surf raced to greet me. And the mountain tells me it will be here long after I am gone. That Li Po poem: ‘…Here we sit, the mountain and I, til only the mountain remains.’ That is a comfort, yes. Both the mountain and the ocean will be here. But in what state?

I begin to see the real core of my sorrow: that try as I might, I am failing to keep the healer safe, failing the mother that holds us all.

I know it is not all up to me. But there is some responsibility here, to work with those who also recognize the way nature needs us to play fair and find ways to live fully without desecrating life itself. And to somehow reach out to those who don’t see that in a way that speaks to them more deeply than the fears that blind them.

But even in saying that, I am not greeting the sky, am I? I am telling the sky to be like the ocean. Yet if I say ‘Que sera, sera” what happens then? To all of us, and the generations that follow. And that is the heart that is broken here: my grandmother heart. For whatever comes to pass may not impact this woman in this body overly much, who knows? But my children and their children and their children. There are babies whose lives I am passionate to save, as avid as any ‘right-to-lifer’ in my desire to keep the planet healthy so that those generations of babies may live! I feel in this loss of an election, I have failed. Babies of our species and others as well. All the plunder and poison.

So I am disheartened. That’s what I am. Just as my mother before me would get disheartened that all her efforts — and she did work hard — sometimes felt for naught. But the waves in the ocean tell a different story, how they slap the shore a little further each time, and then with equal grace recede for a time, only to come again.

Having lived decades beyond her, I can see that my mother’s efforts were not for nothing. She played a small part in a big arc of history. So I can be disheartened, and I can be blind to my part, but I can trust that living my intention with spacious presence and compassion will be enough. That I am not in charge of the outcome, only my way of being in this world.